One of the telling differences I’ve observed about the construction industry over the years is the refocusing on something called culture. Your culture isn’t just a framed vision statement in the entry way of your office but instead, it is how you and your employees live out each day.
Thirty years ago, very few contractors spoke in terms of his or her company culture. Instead, they may have talked about their company as a good company to work at, or maybe a company who did quality work, but rarely did I hear them speak in terms of their company culture. That has all changed today!
Culture has always been larger of an issue for contractors, whether or not they ever discussed it or turned their focus on it. Today, however, a different time is at hand, one that screams out for every contractor to know and grow a culture that represents the best that they can be.
Consider the following definition for culture that can fit just about every definition I’ve researched for a contractor to embrace.
“Culture is the cumulative personality of my organization based upon my beliefs, view of what I do, the traditions and values I hold to as an owner or senior leader, and certainly the attitudes and work ethic of all who work in our company.”
Sort of a long definition, but I think you get the point. In many ways, your culture is what others say you are, or what they see produced or how they see it is produced. While it may be difficult to capture the exact meaning for culture, it seems to be felt readily when others engage your company as an employee, a customer or a supplier.
So, a question should arise: Should I be concerned with the culture of my company? YES!Can I do anything about building a better culture or do I just take what comes my way?Yes, you can build a better culture and no, you don’t have to be content to just take what comes your way.
Let’s first take a peek at how others might read your company culture.
Your crews leave the jobsite cleaner than when they arrived.
Your front office administrative assistant greets visitors to your building with professionalism and grace.
Your field leaders announce to customers when they have arrived and offer to walk through what they will be doing that day.
Your foreman remains calm and poised after the customer complains about a mistake and is making negative comments.
Your new employee thanks you for allowing them to work for your company after they have been on the job for a few weeks.
Your experienced workers are all trying to assist the newer workers in learning how to work smarter and safer.
Your employees all voluntarily show up on a Saturday to help move the offices around and do some extra clean-up to be ready for Monday.
Your workers all donate, voluntarily, money to help out a fellow worker whose child just got diagnosed with cancer.
These efforts are just a few of the thousands of ways a culture can project a workplace and workforce that is upbeat, caring and family like in its efforts.
How Contractors are Creating Safety Cutlures that Beat Compliance Rituals
But how can a contractor build the sort of culture that they want to own, something that can really reflect all that they know to be good? Consider a few ideas below — all efforts that I’ve personally assisted contractors to build into their company culture.
Constructing Culture Speak
1. Develop your company’s vision and values
This first effort has finally taken on some traction with many contractors. As the owner or senior leader of a construction company, it is vital to have a clear vision of what you want the company to be focused on. The values then should be created to support the vision.Think of the values as “legs” that help to carry the vision to employees, customers and suppliers.
2. Engage every company employee on how to live the company vision and values
Your company’s vision and values are not only for the senior leaders but for all your employees. One primary reason some contractors struggle with creating a good culture is that they never talk about their vision and values with all the employees. The “vision statement” is sometimes captured on a plaque or printed on a business card, which is fine, but your vision, and values, need to be talked about. When people begin to discuss how they can really live the vision and values, then you begin to see people putting out a better effort.
3. Recognize and reward employees who are “caught living” the vision and values
How do you reinforce a six-year old child to clean up their room…voluntarily? By recognizing and rewarding them when they do clean up their room. Sometimes that recognition and reward might be a dollar, but sometimes a great “atta boy,” can go a long way. The main learning point here is that we need to be consistent and proactive.Reinforcing your appreciation for the foreman who won an angry customer over to realizing how special your company is can go a long way for that same foreman, and you should recognize and reward such efforts!
4. Share complimentary recognition from customers/suppliers with employees
Most of our workers are, well, working! They haven’t the time to sit around wondering if one customer likes them or their work results. However, many customers are only too quick to say thank you and “job well done.” Often, such appreciation is sent to the owner or some senior leader, but even this form of appreciation needs to be passed along to the workers. This reinforces that their efforts and conduct are making a positive difference with the customers who are paying for our success.
5. Engage workers to reflect on the company
This can be touchy for owners — and not all employees will be transparent — but it is still important to give your employees the chance to share how they feel about the company.Working with some of my clients, I’ve conducted a “Culture Survey,” a tool we use to measure some of the processes in a confidential manner. This process allows employees to respond and rate how things are progressing in the company. If the feedback is taken seriously, and if the owner and senior leaders will work to make good, solid and important improvements, the employees will respond positively.
6. Be authentic
As an owner or senior leader, nothing beats any leader who is authentic. Now, authentic doesn’t mean that you cannot get angry or that you should refrain from criticizing work or behavior. However, to be authentic is to address even the worst of things honestly, professionally, and in a controlled and objective manner. If owners and senior leaders are anything, they need to be authentic.
7. Leader’s refocus and recommitment
Admittedly, even the senior leaders are working on acquiring new customers, working to ensure that schedules can be met, and that each of our field leaders are supported. So, in the midst of such activities, it is easy to let go of our vision and values. This is the “kiss of death” for the contractor striving to make his or her workplace the “employee friendly” and the “preferred contractor of choice.” Therefore, in addition to the previous six tips, I highly caution owners and leaders to have a little monthly time for “R&R;” except in this case, it stands for “Refocus & Recommitment.” If our senior body of leaders do not walk the talk as it relates to living the vision and values, there is no way under God’s green earth the workers will comply. Owner and senior leaders must live the culture first and consistently!
If your business culture is positive, you should be able to measure a few results, such as:
Absenteeism and late-arrivals are lower
Customer and employee complaints are lower
Customer and employee retention is higher
Rework and call-backs are lower
Profitability and on-time-completion is higher
Don’t worry if you don’t see any marked improvement immediately, it takes a long time to develop the culture you want to have.
Make the tips shared in this article part of your efforts to turn your company into what every current employee wants to enjoy, what every future employee is looking for in an employer, and what every customer wants to continue doing business with!
Article By: Brad Humphrey
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